Movie Discussion: Alexandre Bustillo & Julian Maury’s Inside [À l’intérieur] (2007)

  • Monthly Theme: Women on the Vergeposter_01
  • The Film: Inside
  • French title: À l’intérieur
  • Country of origin: France
  • Date of French release: June 13, 2007
  • Date of U.S. release: April 15, 2008 (DVD release)
  • Studio: BR, Canal + & CinéCinéma
  • Distributer: Dimension Extreme (DVD)
  • Domestic Gross: ?
  • Budget: $3 million (estimated)
  • Directors: Julien Maury & Alexandre Bustillo
  • Producers: Vérane Frédiani & Franck Ribiére
  • Screenwriter: Alexandre Bustillo
  • Adaptation? No.
  • Cinematographer: Laurent Barès
  • Make-Up/FX: Jacques Olivier-Molon
  • Music: François Eudes
  • Part of a series? No.
  • Remakes? No.
  • Genre Icons in the cast? Yes. Genre actress Béatrice Dalle (Trouble Every Day, Time of the Wolf, etc.).
  • Other notables?: Yes. French film stars Tahar Rahim and Alysson Paradis.
  • Awards?: Best Supporting Actress [Dalle] at the 2009 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards. 4 awards at the 2007 Sitges-Catalonian International Film Festival.
  • Tagline: “Open your door… so that I can open your belly.”
  • The Lowdown: If Martyrs is the blood-soaked Cinderella of the mid-2000s wave of so-called “New French Extremity” films, then Inside is that movement’s Ugly Stepsister. Made by first-time co-directors, the film has been hailed by horror fandom (and press) as one of the 21st century’s signature classics. The film has a bare-bones premise: a young woman named Sarah (played by Alysson Paradis, kid sister to French model Vanessa Paradis, ex-longtime partner of Johnny Depp) loses her husband in a car accident and is left alone and pregnant with their child. On Christmas Eve, she spends a final night by herself – in the morning she will go to the hospital to have labor induced and deliver the baby. But suddenly a strange figure, The Woman (played by Trouble Every Day‘s Béatrice Dalle), appears outside her door and begins to harass Sarah. Soon it becomes clear that The Woman is unhinged, and means to break in and carve Sarah’s unborn baby from her body. What follows is an epic battle between two desperate characters, beloved and ballyhooed by fans for both its creeping suspense and uncompromising gore.

If you haven’t seen Inside our discussion will include massive SPOILERS.

Kristine: I’d like to start out by observing that in the week since we watched this movie, we had an election cycle in which women made huge political gains, specifically in the arena of reproductive rights. Many of the Tea Party/right-wing “rape philosophers” did not win reelection. Elizabeth Warren, Maggie Hassan and Tammy Baldwin all had high-profile victories. We’ve got a new, all-women delegation in the state of New Hampshire. Women voters turned out in droves and really made their voices heard. Of course, I found all of this exhilarating, but I kept thinking of Inside during it all and wondering about the bizarre connection between these real-world political shifts and the politics of this movie (for us, the American audience – I realize that the French context for this movie is totally different).

Sean: Yeah, I am literally doing back-flips of joy at all the lady-victory. I feel so patriotic. Viva la America. But the fight over reproductive rights in the U.S. right now does bring a weird context to watching Inside. It’s like, what exactly is this movie’s attitude towards female biology and the politics of reproduction? I’m not sure I can discern them, but it’s a fascinating case study in primal expression. In some ways, this movie is just a guttural yowling from the depths of the “female psyche.” In other ways, it’s a polemic about maternity. It’s a bit confusing. Can I just add that I was dying that your boyfriend watched this movie with you?

I have seen this bathroom in a Wendy’s before…

Kristine: I know. If he was a judger, he would judge us. But I think it will make reading the discussion a lot more interesting for him. You know he reads faithfully every week, over his breakfast cereal. And he has also watched every episode of the new season of American Horror Story, because Wednesday is one of our nights together. He thinks it is gross, but not scary.

Sean:  I actually think it’s fascinating that he watched this movie, because I think Inside is just the most basic, primal iteration of the horror movie possible. Was The Boyfriend like, “Your horror blog is perverted”? Because it led to us watching Inside?

Kristine: Nah. Remember, he reads the blog. I don’t want to discuss The Boyfriend’s reaction before we get to my reaction, which is: this film was a real mixed bag. There are things I like and things that really don’t work for me. As you know, I never research films before we watch them (to avoid spoilers) and rarely research them after we watch them (due to time constraints). I did a cursory web search of film reviews after we watched this one and learned that Inside is very highly regarded. And it didn’t quite get there for me. Please tell me your reaction to it, and also the first time you saw it and that initial reaction.

Sean: Ummm… I like the movie a lot. I didn’t initially have a rapturous response to it like I have with other movies (say, Martyrs or The Descent). I really think it represents both the best and the worst of what the horror genre is all about.

Kristine: But am I correct that this film is put in the same camp of contemporary classics as Martyrs and The Descent?

Sean: Yes, this is generally regarded as one of the top horror movies of the last 10 years. I get that response, I understand why horror fans would respond so rapturously to the movie, and I am fine with it. I’d put it in the top 25, myself. It’s very good, but not cream of the crop, in my estimation.

Kristine: Ah, so we are in agreement that Inside is radically mixed bag. Good.

Still Life with Jell-O Wrestler

Sean: Sure. I loved Béatrice Dalle’s performance a lot when I first saw this, and still do. And of course, I loved the over-the-top gore.

Kristine: Interesting. Did you think I would love it?

Sean: I had no idea if you’d ultimately like the movie or not, but I thought you would have fun watching it because it has so many WTF moments.

Kristine: My main issue with the movie is that I think using a pregnant lady as an all-purpose victim/Everywoman is a cop-out and is problematic. However, I did love Dalle’s performance a ton and I liked how the characters weren’t black and white. Can characters be nuanced yet all-purpose? I guess my answer is yes, they can.

Sean: Huh that’s interesting. I mean, the lead character being pregnant IS the movie. It is like, the entire premise.

Kristine: I know, and it works, but I can still find fault with it, even if it is working. I hated the explanation that The Woman (I love that she has no name, by the way) is after the fetus because she was in the car accident and lost her pregnancy. I hated that.

Sean: Good, we disagree. I loved that.

Kristine: Sean. It was so dumb. It was so soap opera.

Sean: No, you’re wrong. It is essential to the movie working.

Yes, you’re fat. It’s ok.

Kristine: So Scooby-Doo.

Sean: It is not Scooby-Doo at all. Shall I attempt to defend this aspect of the movie? And see if I can convince you?

Kristine: I’ll allow it. Proceed.

Sean: First off, once we know about The Woman’s lost pregnancy, it becomes very clear that this movie is about revenge and/or karma. And I like that.

Kristine: But it’s not about revenge. It’s about The Woman taking her life back, not about punishing Sarah. Sarah’s punishment is just incidental.

Sean: Hmmmm. Arguable. It is also significant that we never know who is at fault in the accident at the start of the movie. In this way, both Sarah and The Woman are potential victims and potential murderers. Or perhaps it was simply a twist of fate and no one is at fault. It muddies the waters of Sarah’s “goodness” and The Woman’s “badness.”

Kristine: I agree with the no fault/unknown fault. I liked that, and I agree. I really liked how Sarah is not lovable and cozy, and The Woman is pitiable, and there are shades of grey in both their characterizations. I agree with all that.

Sean: But the woman’s loss of her baby is important because it means she is no longer the barren psychotic attacking the fertile victim. She is another kind of mother. The central tension in the movie is no longer between a desperate spinster and a life-giving ingénue. It becomes about fanatical maternity, and The Woman’s character gains pathos because both women lost something in the car accident. I also want to add, I think Bustillo and Maury handle the reveal of The Woman’s true motive with aplomb. If this were a Hollywood horror movie, Dalle would have been required to deliver some weird monologue to Paradis about her lost baby. But this movie is smart enough to avoid that kind of hokey-ness all together.

You know somewhere right now, a businessman is paying a woman to do this to him

Kristine: I agree with all that – and that it makes the film powerful and effective. I love the two nuanced, super-strong female characters, and I love how the men are incidental and quickly done away with. In fact, one of my favorite scenes is when the brain-injured cop starts attacking Sarah and The Woman fights him off. It is deliciously arguable whether she was just defending the fetus or whether she didn’t want anyone else to do harm to Sarah – her violence had a motive, therefore it is permissible, but others’ violence to Sarah is not permissible. However, it annoys me that the movie relies so heavily on the tired notion that motherhood is the end-all and be-all of women’s emotional lives.

Sean: I understand your points, but let me argue something.

Kristine: Ok.

Sean: It is brilliant to make Sarah pregnant and the movie revolve around The Woman trying to cut the baby out of her because of the trope of the pregnant woman as a holy and untouchable figure. The movie plays with that trope and turns it in on itself again and again and then it has the guts to actually have the baby get cut out in the end. You could easily read this movie as pissing all over/mocking the idea of the pregnant woman as a sacrosanct symbol of womanhood. But on a more visceral level, it just makes Sarah’s body seem incredibly vulnerable and amps up the “body horror” elements of the plot. Every time a blow lands or Sarah is jostled or banged about, we flinch 90% more because we instinctively think, “What about the baby?” It may be a “cheap” way to raise the stakes, but it’s very fucking effective. And doesn’t the movie, in some ways, do away with the notion that the female body is this fragile vessel during pregnancy, and re-fashion that body as incredibly durable and tough?

Kristine: I get that, and I think that is a legitimate reading. But I just wish we could have a female killer who wasn’t doing it over her man, her lost baby, blah blah. I think Béatrice Dalle has the chops to pull off a truly terrifying female psychopath with no motivation, which would make her scarier in my opinion. And while I said I liked how this movie was largely just about these two ladies, no gents, it did bother me that they both are so gruesomely punished over and over and over. Even at the end, when The Woman is “victorious,” there is no victory. She will probably die of her injuries. It just feels like a very hateful movie, which is not necessarily a damning thing, but is a thing.

National Geographic: Torture Porn Edition

Sean: Right. Point taken. It is certainly a sadistic movie. That’s the unifying principle of all these “New French Extremity” films from the period: Martyrs, Sheitan, High Tension, Frontier(s), Ils. We’d have to have French national come on to talk about the national context for why this was the dominant aesthetic for so much French horror in the 2000s. But yes, sadism, cruelty, ultraviolence, misanthropy… That’s the NFE vibe, for better and for worse and Inside is no exception. This is what I meant about it being everything good and bad about the genre in a blender.

Kristine: I agree with your statement 100%.

Sean: But remember that horror is a site where we come to see bodies pushed to their limits. It is a genre of extremes, and by necessity it has to push way beyond our natural sensitivities.

Kristine: Did you love the brain-damaged cop scene I referenced? And which of my reads do you think is correct?

Sean: The cop scene I loved. It might be the film’s best batshit moment. But I guess I would argue, re: the sadism, that this movie is about primal warfare. It is about two beings battling it out. And yes, the mother angle attached to the gender of the characters can be annoying, but it’s also… mythic. I mean, we see men’s bodies brutalized and savagely beaten in action cinema all the time, and get a huge rush of adrenaline from the experience. If nothing else, Inside shows us what these scenarios of bodily punishment and brutality look like when female bodies are swapped out for males (and one of them is massively pregnant, which in this context becomes an even sicker and more brilliant joke).

Kristine: I agree. Pregnancy is this primal condition, so yes, it works.

Sean: And Sarah’s turnaround towards the end of the movie, from cowering victim to battle-hardened warrior, is a vital trope of horror cinema, especially since about the late-1980s/early-1990s. Two of the biggest, mainstream successes of that period were Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgement Day, both of which were sequels that featured female protagonists who had previously been mostly victimized turning the tables and going on the offensive. Think about another horror movie Sarah who is suffering from the crippling depression of losing a husband (and child) – Sarah from The Descent. She also spends the first half of the movie cowering and simpering, and then begins to kick serious ass. I feel like horror cinema often takes female characters and wants to burn away their overtly “feminine,” passive responses to the extreme – tears, terror, hysteria, paralysis – and replace them with active responses. That impulse, that horror cinema wants to see female characters “toughen up” and become, if not aggressors, then active defenders, strikes me as fascinating. I can’t even begin to sort through the layers of gender politics in that equation.

Kristine: I really want to hear your take on the brain-damaged cop scene. Do you think The Woman is just protecting the fetus when she defends Sarah against the cop? Or is it more?

Sean: I think it’s more.

Kristine: Yay!

Sean: This actually bleeds into my other point about why The Woman losing the baby is vital. Can I make it?

I love laughing this hard

Kristine: I just want to quickly add something to an earlier point about the accident. I think it’s important that Sarah was driving, not her husband. So it really is Sarah “versus” The Woman, in terms of the accident and the question of fault.

Sean: Yes, agreed. Okay, so my point is that it is significant that Sarah is the one who kills her own mother, while all of the potential father and husband-figures that enter the narrative are killed by The Woman. She dispatches the rescuing males again and again, repeatedly re-enacting the death of Sarah’s spouse and robbing her of male support or rescue. But the accidental murder of Sarah’s mother prefigures Sarah’s own abdication of motherhood, and also re-enacts the destruction of The Woman’s mother-status in the accident. As the car collision “murdered” the mother in the car – robbing The Woman of her baby and making her a mother no more – Sarah destroys another mother, this time her own. In this way, The Woman is marked as the more maternal of the two and perhaps her claims upon Sarah’s unborn baby makes a kind of twisted sense. Whatever the reading, the thing that each woman “did” to the other in the car accident, they keep doing throughout the narrative of the movie.

Kristine: I totally agree. I was going to bring up Sarah’s unintentional matricide. That moment feels important and is great. Another time I thought the movie did something great and something stinky was Sarah’s attitude towards her pregnancy. I thought it was realistic and important that the film didn’t show Sarah taking comfort in her pregnancy after her husband’s death. I loved her ambivalence and depression. That scene in the OB/GYN office when she is like, “whatever” instead of being all joyful? Brilliant. But I think it is a cop-out that the only reason (we can be certain of) that she feels a disconnect from the baby is because of the trauma associated with it, her husband’s death. In reality, women feel alienated from their fetuses all the time and I wish the movie had shown that.

Dadaist wall art

Sean: A-ha. Yes, the movie romanticizes her connection to her lost husband in the scene where she imagines him stroking her belly. But this again sets up The Woman as the potential “better mother” – and they both had to lose something in the accident…

Kristine: I agree. Once again, the choices totally work for this movie. But I do think it would be nice to show a good woman feel ambivalent about a pregnancy, and not because of a trauma. The trauma excuses the audience from judging her in a way that irritates me.

Sean: Have I won you over at all regarding The Woman having been pregnant in the accident?

Kristine: Sure, I think it is effective, totally. Can we address the lesbian overtones in the movie?

Sean: Yes. When the woman climbs on top of Sarah like, twice?

Kristine: Yes, that, of course. But also the rage of the attack. The attack feels so personal, like an attack people make on their lovers. Another one of my favorite scenes is when the Woman can’t get in the bathroom after insanely hacking away at the door (which reminded me a bit of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, by the way) and she screams and wails like an animal. Her behavior is so primal and scary and also, feels so personal. Their fighting is so… intimate, being staged in such close quarters with all these domestic objects. Also, they are not dissimilar looking, with their long dark hair.

Men do this to their wives in Pakistan just for burning the toast in the morning

Sean: Right, they are “shadow versions” of each other.

Kristine: Lastly, since pregnancy is a product of sex, when The Woman becomes “with child” because of Sarah in the climax of the movie, it is like there was a sexual exchange. Do you know what I mean? In a way, Sarah symbolically impregnated The Woman.

Sean: Oooh, I like that reading of the ending. Yes.

Kristine: I am brills.

Sean: And The Woman cutting the baby out of Sarah is so intimate and sexual… But just a gonzo grotesque parody of a sexual act.

Kristine: The baby still has two people who brought it to life.

Sean: I love it.  Also, The Woman kisses Sarah and Sarah bites her lip off, mirroring the injury Sarah initially receives from the scissors when the woman straddles her and pokes her in the belly with the scissors. Those scissors are totally phallic but also domestic. It’s a nice genderfuck of a symbol. They make The Woman into a phallic woman, but also keep her grounded in the world of the domestic and the “feminine.”

Kristine: Yes, yes. Can we discuss… outfits?

Sean: Yes.

I am Vagina-Face, hear me roar!

Kristine: The Woman’s witchy-poo outfit was ridic and I loved it. As for Sarah… I found it incongruous that this woman, who is not a girly-girl at all, dons this shortie white doily nightie. You know she would be wearing an old, oversized t-shirt. C’mon. But it provided a visual dichotomy, and also harkens back to Mia Farrow’s outfits in Rosemary’s Baby, don’t you think?

Sean: Love the Rosemary’s Baby connection. Now, I find this dumb, but I read an interview where the two guys said they wanted The Woman’s outfit to recall…. can you guess? A character from a horror movie we watched for the blog.

Kristine: I need more clues. A contemporary or vintage movie?

Sean: Um…. a “classic.”

Kristine: The one that comes to mind is Daughters of DarknessOne of my faves.

Sean: Nope. Pinhead.

Kristine: Oh geez. That is dumb.

Sean: So dumb, right? This is the Blender Effect in action. Is there a possible feminist reading of this movie wherein two loathsome female stereotypes – the woman who cares only about being a mother and the woman who only cares about her man – battle it out and destroy each other?

You never saw Betty Blue, you say?

Kristine: Sure, I like that. Though we don’t know that about Sarah. I mean, it is valid to be depressed and ambivalent about your pregnancy since your partner has died without “only” caring about your man.

Sean: Right.

Kristine: I have told you two of my favorite moments from the movie. A third is when The Woman pinions Sarah’s hand to the wall with the scissors. Good God! That was so fucking visceral and made me die and squirm like crazy. I’d like it if you listed three of your favorite moments, then we can proceed however you wish.

Sean: The scissors moment is awesome. I think my three fave moments are: #3: the zombie cop attack. #2: the insane gore splatter when Sarah kills her mother and just the gore in general.

Kristine: Sarah is a real badass fighter. They both were worthy foes.

Sean: I just want to add – this is the rare splatter movie that has no comedic elements. My #1 moment leads to a topic I wanted to discuss in detail. It is that insanely beautiful shot of Sarah sitting on the couch and The Woman is there in the room and slowly slowly slowly fades into the shadows until she’s just this ghostly white deathmask that vanishes.

Kristine: Ah, yes. I love how 95% of this movie was in the house. So interior, so female, so… inside.

Sean: That shot is a reversal of a very famous shot from a classic horror movie that I see this movie as being in total dialogue with. Any guesses? To me, Inside is almost a kind of response to this classic, á la Exile on Main Street/Exile in Guyville.

Art critic meets Dadaist wall art

Kristine: I don’t know.

Sean: Think about it for a sec…. Give me one guess.

Kristine: Give me a hint and then I will guess.

Sean: Hint: “I hate drivers with no sense of humor.”

Kristine: Halloween.

Sean: Yes.

Kristine: Explain. Other than the stalking, I am not sure I get it.

Sean: I think this movie is in dialogue with Halloween in some really important ways – that long shot of The Woman fading into the shadows is an inversion of the iconic moment when Michael materializes from the shadows behind Laurie at the end of Halloween. Both movies are about these shocking intrusions of violence into the domestic and the ordinary. Halloween’s primary interest is in what happens when the bubble of suburban safety is popped by this motiveless incarnation of evil, this pure malevolent force. It is about calling attention to just how vulnerable we are. Inside is, I think, interested in the same thing but here, it’s more explicitly about gender and motherhood. If in 1978 the most shocking violation imaginable was the infiltration of the American suburb, then in 2007 the most shocking violation imaginable is perpetrated against the body of a pregnant mother. I find it fascinating how that shift from the broader community to the deeply interior and personal is enacted. One movie is about a town, the other is about a house or, one might say, about a womb. But how Inside even imagines its violation of the interior, domestic space is lifted right out of Halloween and Michael Myers’ assault on Laurie Strode in the suburban home. Even the relative lack of identification in the films’ antagonists – the Shape and the Woman – link them. Also, on a smaller scale, the knitting needle and the home invasion aspects of Inside are direct references to Halloween.

Wasn’t this guy Lando’s co-pilot in Return of the Jedi?

Kristine: Ah, I see. Home invasion is so fucking scary.

Sean: Basically this movie is the batle between Laurie and the Shape at the end of Halloween stretched to a feature-length film. And all of the aesthetics of the dark house swathed in shadows and the mysterious assailant who just keeps coming and coming…

Kristine: Also, both Michael Myers and The Woman are acting out of a sense of deep personal loss. Also, the M.A.L.Es [Masculine Authoritarian Logical Examiner] in both movies are totally ineffectual. [Editor’s Note: For the backstory on the M.A.L.E, see our discussion of Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy.]

Sean: Yes. But as you pointed out – The Woman winds up having a motive. Michael’s motive is always unclear. Which may make him scarier… But I found the way Inside introduces the Woman to be masterful. Talking through the door like that? Terrifying. And then her appearing in full giallo gear – black gloves, trench – in the back window.

Kristine: The visuals of the movie are all great. How scary was “She knows me. She knows all about me”?

Sean: Terrifying. Sarah photographing The Woman was also great, and felt like a shout-out to the end of Rear Window.

Kristine: I like how at first, The Woman seems almost supernatural, but then she is revealed to be immensely human, down to how much she suffers and is injured. But at first she just keeps coming and coming.

Sean: Yes.

Kristine: But I have a complaint that hearkens back to my earlier comments… I totally knew what was going to happen. I mean, you know The Woman is coming for Sarah because of the baby, somehow. I knew she wanted the baby from Sarah, so there was a lack of suspense. Whether or not she would succeed was the only real question, and why she wanted it, though I wasn’t all that invested in that. I know it’s important to making her character somewhat sympathetic, but when it was revealed she was the other party in the accident, I groaned and rolled my eyes.

Sean: Is it important at all that Sarah is a photographer? Kristine, the lady photographer is such a pop culture staple. Everything from Melrose Place to Maniac goes there.

Kristine: You are right about the lady photographer, it is a thing. It is a non-threatening, middle class female occupation.

Sean: Jo from Melrose Place.

Kristine: Haha! According to the pop culture of the last 40 years, the most acceptable jobs for a certain kind of “artsy” woman are photographer, curator or art gallery employee.

Sean: But doesn’t it in some ways make Sarah’s character about looking and perception? Remember when she is standing there at the beginning, looking at all those photos she took of her husband and there are these random images of black faces?

Kristine: Sure, making her a photographer marks her as an observer, which is more of a cerebral archetype than an emotional one interestingly. The photographer as a figure of masculine rationality has popped up in some of the movies we’ve watched, most notably in The Omen. I wonder if that subtle masculinization of Sarah plays into undercutting her viability as a maternal figure. Also note that she doesn’t have any close friends. Her support system is her mother and her employer, neither of whom she shows warmth to (until after she kills her mom).

Sean: Totes. She is adrift and she looks like Jennifer Beals. Imagine if it was Bette in the starring role, fighting the Woman?

Kristine: Bette could totally pull it off. I just remembered something, and it plays into The Woman being a quasi-supernatural force. Remember when The Woman reveals their connection, and Sarah says, “I was told there were no survivors”? What do you make of that?

A gentle, relaxing scissor bath helps delivering mothers unwind

Sean: Huh, yeah that was weird. I don’t remember The Woman’s response to that. Do you?

Kristine: I don’t think she did respond.

Sean: Huh. I think that line is just there so Sarah doesn’t look like a horrible person who never inquired after the people in the other car.

Kristine: I don’t think so… I think it is meant to deepen the mystery.

Sean: How so?

Kristine: Oh, the mystery of what The Woman is… Remember when Sarah goes back and looks at the photos she’d taken earlier that day and there The Woman is popping up in the background of the photographs like a ghost? I think the movies toys with the idea that The Woman is slightly unnatural. It leaves a door open that she could still be a ghost or something coming back for what she has lost… But I have a question: when Sarah says “she’s stuck” about the baby, is she giving The Woman permission to take the baby out of her? At that moment, is Sarah more concerned about the baby’s welfare then her own? Also, why oh why do we keep watching movies that remind me of that stupid movie Hush with Gwynnie Paltrow?

Sean: I kind of read it that way… The two women sort of come together in that moment. I felt like Sarah’s resistance flagged and she gave herself over to her fate. Did the image of the scissors cutting open the belly make you die? Or were you like, whatevs?

Kristine: It made me cringe a little, but not as much as the scissors being plunged through the hand, maybe because I was expecting the Caesarian. Though the shot of Sarah afterwards was pretty horrible.

Sean: I know. Ugh.

Kristine: And I also was like, do they have to do this birth/murder on the stairs? Can’t they find a comfy couch?

Sean: Ok so just to address your earlier point about the title referring to the womb, to the bathroom, to the domestic space of the house. This movie stages a massive confrontation between femininities with all the use of domestic objects in the violence (knitting needle, toaster, scissors, etc.). It seems like a movie that’s “about” the feminine in a lot of ways, but it doesn’t have a feminine sensibility.

Kristine: Yeah, I think it both underscores the domesticity-gone-totally-fucked, and also the primal nature of the battle between the women. When you are fighting for your life, you use anything and everything you can.

Sean: Is this movie total gynsploitation? Did two men have no right to make this?

Kristine: Anyone has a right to make anything they want, but I do think it plays upon male fears of childbirth. Though I have those fears too. A coworker just had her baby today and throughout her pregnancy the office ladies were exchanging birthing stories and they all made me queasy and horrified.


Sean: Oh, the CGI shots of the baby in utero.

Kristine: Yeah, what did you think of the fetus POV reaction shots?

Sean: Hated. The CGI itself looked horrid and cheap.

Kristine: Have you seen those 3D ultrasound pictures of babies in utero? Stuff of nightmares.

Sean: Horror movies are the only place you can go where people admit the horrors of babydom. The rest of the world is the film version of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. My only other thoughts on the movie are: it is ridiculously hard to die in this movie. It really is a huge contrast to, say, the slashers and zombie movies we’ve watched where all you have to do is like, poke someone gently with a knife and they keel over spurting blood and die. Many, many horror movies depict the act of murdering someone as almost absurdly easy. But in Inside, it takes a lot to commit murder (which feels like a shout-out to yet another – underrated – Hitchcock movie, Torn Curtain). When The Woman takes out Sarah’s boss, or the brain-dead cop, or even Sarah herself… It takes a lot of effort and violence to get the job done. Bodies in this movie are almost comically indestructible. Also, I found all the actions of the various male cops to be really dumb and infuriating.

Kristine: I liked the topicality of the suburban riots in Paris, and how there is this external threat but then the real horror is, again, “inside”. I like the kid the cops arrest and how the cop and the kid are tethered together. It added to the stress big time, when the poor kid was all, “Can we get the fuck out of this house?” and he was helpful, and also when the cop finally handed the kid a weapon, realizing the threat in the house had made them allies.

Sean: Ugh, it annoyed me that the cop gave him a gun. That was so dumb.

Kristine: Oh, I liked it. It showed how scared the cop was.

Sean: The ethnic kid with the knife in his brain was sad, but other than that I hated it. All the cops were moronovitches.

Kristine: So my last comment is that before we watched this, the only thing you told me about the movie was that Béatrice Dalle was legendary as a frightening film presence (you were so right). I Googled her and OMG do you know about her life?

Sean: No. Tell me.

Kristine: Ooh man. It’s easier if I cut and paste this quick thing: “Dalle was arrested in 1991 for stealing jewelry in Paris; she received a fine for assaulting a traffic warden in 1998; she was also arrested in Miami in 1999 for cocaine possession. In January, 2005, while making a film about prison life in Brest, Dalle met Guenaël Meziani, who was serving a 12-year prison sentence for assaulting and raping his ex-girlfriend. She married him after 24 one-hour visits with him, and spoke on his behalf at hearings for his early release. According to the newspaper Le Parisien, in May, 2009 just weeks after he was given a conditional release for good behavior, police were called to her flat in the Marais district of Paris because of a violent dispute in which Meziani allegedly threatened to kill her.”  Also, this is a picture of she and the husband, who she is still with. Also, her ex-boyfriend is some French thug rapper who was convicted of beating an ex-girlfriend (not Béatrice). So. She is a situation.

Sean: OMG, she is addicted to violent monsters.

Kristine: She is. She sought that guy out in jail and married him. Do you know I have never seen Betty Blue and I am ashamed?

Sean: I have seen it. Here is the thesis of Betty Blue: Women are insane harpies. The end.

Kristine: Oy vey.

Ratings Roundup

The Girl’s Rating: Batshit insanity AND Provocative and problematic.

The Freak’s Rating: Batshit insanity AND Provocative and problematic.

Don't get all flaming about it, girl.
Don’t get all flaming about it, girl.

19 thoughts on “Movie Discussion: Alexandre Bustillo & Julian Maury’s Inside [À l’intérieur] (2007)

  1. Just watched this – brilliant stuff! Paradis was amazing, but Dalle really stole the show. That whole sequence of The Woman knocking at the door, then appearing at the window, was awesome. The above mentioned shot of The Woman backing away and merging with the darkness was also amazing.
    I went in knowing its reputation for ott gore – it must be quite a shock watching it with no prior knowledge!
    Loved how The Woman kept saying ‘open your door’, not ‘the door’, when she was trying to get into the bathroom.

  2. So glad you dug this Lincoln! Yeah, I never noticed that Dalle said “your” door… awesome. I actually JUST watched Bustillo & Maury’s follow-up to this, Livid. It’s another home invasion story, but of a totally different nature. I didn’t love it, but it was interesting, and a bit creepy. These guys are obsessed with the feminine and with mother/daughter dyads for sure. You may want to check it out since you loved this.

  3. Oh wow, you guys liked this movie a LOT more than I did. I thought that even at only 82 minutes it was padded out with dumb. I thought the movie needed to be much more about the dynamic between Sarah and The Woman, and not just by having them lay into each other like a pair of Looney Tunes characters with the capacity to bleed. The scenes with the mother and the boss were terrific, but when they started dragging in all of the cops I just started laughing. I thought that the thing about the (real-life) riots was a great way to keep the cops out of the action and was dismayed when I realised it was actually so they could get a suspect chained to a cop to slow him down.

    I mean, that cop was so stupid I don’t think that brain damage actually impaired his intelligence. When he hears gunshots from within the house first he doesn’t bother to call for backup, then rather than handcuff his suspect in the car he actually drags him into the house, and finally he gives the suspect a weapon. I was waiting for him to reveal that he never actually went through police training and was just hanging out with his cop buddies hoping to get in on some racial violence.

    I was not surprised to find, when reading about the movie after watching it, that in the initial draft The Woman was actually a male intruder, and that the second director suggested changing it to a woman just because he thought having a male villain was too much of a cliché.

    Sorry, I just got angry with the movie because it started out so well and then got so dumb so fast.

  4. I agree with ALL the points you made – the cops stuff is beyond ridiculous especially with the handcuffed suspect as you point out. (In fact, in our above discussion I said to K: “Also, I found all the actions of the various male cops to be really dumb and infuriating.”) Even though that annoyed me, it didn’t undercut the rest of the movie for me. Especially after seeing “Livide,” their second feature, I still stand by my admiration for this movie. I think Maury/Bustillo are amongst the few horror movie directors (along with McKee and Laugier) making successful films about the feminine, even when they’re problematic. I’d prefer to have women directors on the case with this, but I’ll still pick up what M/B are putting down.

  5. I’m actually in the midst of catching up with recent French horror for the first episode of my new podcast so thanks for the heads up about Livide! I do think there are things to admire about Inside, but I think it’s been over-praised. And yeah, I also really wish there were more women directing movies like these – hell, directing any kind of horror movies.

    Speaking of Lucky McKee I’d love to see what both of you think of The Woman, but also of Roman, which is kind of a gender flip on May directed bt Angela Bettis and starring McKee. I have problems with both of them, but they’re interesting.

  6. The cop situation didn’t bother me at all. If they had left the suspect in the car, by himself, would that really be more believable? What’s the procedure it that situation, in France? As far as giving him the riot gun, I agree with Kristine – it showed how scared he was. Plus, it’s not like he’s some violent psycho, isn’t he just a looter, or something?
    You know, I’ve read forum posts where people think the cop really does turn into a zombie! And criticise the film for putting a zombie in it!
    Anyway, don’t expect everyone to like it, just thought I’d stand up for it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s